The heat is on in the fight to cut emissions

As the UK continues to drive towards a ‘zero carbon’ homes standard, with homes built to higher levels of air tightness, home owners could face a new problem…overheating.

While high temperatures are generally experienced only during summer months, NHBC Foundation has published its second research report on the subject to provide the industry with further guidance. It builds on the advice provided to house builders and designers and documents a wide-ranging review of existing information and evidence on overheating.

From a health perspective, the medical evidence finds that vulnerable groups such as the elderly may be particularly at risk, and although the health effects of exposure to heat can be mild, if left untreated symptoms have the potential to develop quickly into severe, often fatal heat-related illnesses. And the problems are likely to worsen with an ageing population and warmer summers.

The guidance concludes that newly-built and refurbished homes with high standards of energy efficiency and airtightness are most at risk of overheating, especially small houses and flats, and predominantly single-sided properties where cross-ventilation is not possible. But it points out that heat gain may be preventable in the design phase.

Neil Smith, group research and innovation manager at NHBC, said: “This report raises some key points about the causes and, most importantly, impact of overheating. It is clear that the health risks alone indicate there is an urgent need across the industry to develop a universally accepted definition of overheating in dwellings, as well as thresholds for intervention.”